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Robert Biedroń’s party Spring into third place

Poland's new political party shows it's a force to be reckoned with

Image: Lukas Plewnia

A NEW POLITICAL PARTY has been created in Poland by the first openly gay Polish politician, Robert Biedroń. The long-awaited opening conference, that has been compared to American style rallies, took place on 3 February in Warsaw, where Biedroń presented the program of his new party, named Spring (or Wiosna in Polish.) His left-leaning party has essentially a secular, positivist, and liberal vision of Poland, reminiscent of the Macron campaign, but with populist under-tones.However, the interesting fact is that even before the opening conference, Spring polled at 7 to 10 per cent. This number has since risen to 14 per cent according to a poll from 5 February, making it the third political force in Poland. The popularity may be explained through two main factors. First, it is partly based around the anti-establishment nature of the party, which reflects a trend already seen in other parts of the world. Second, even though Spring might seem as just another leftist party in Poland, since there are already two others, its hard stance against the influence of the Catholic church is reminiscent of a political force now nonexistent, namely Ruch Palikota, to which Biedroń himself belonged. Ruch Palikota received 10.4 per cent of Polish votes during the 2011 elections, but it got dissolved in 2013. Therefore, it is highly probable that the core of current Spring supporters are old voters of Ruch Palikota. Furthermore, the language of positivity, especially in the aftermath of the assassination of the Mayor of Gdańsk, Paweł Adamowicz, was well received among voters tired of the incredibly partisan nature of Polish politics.

In his speech Biedroń stressed the need for renewal and freshness in Polish politics, under-lined in the metaphor of spring it-self. Their ambitious program was created after a two month tour of Poland where Biedroń met with local communities to brainstorm issues and their possible solutions. The effect is a pro-gram which outlines sweeping social re-forms like raising minimum wage and pensions, and the scrapping of the old healthcare system in order to create a completely new one. It envisions wide-ranging education reforms so that they can meet 21st century challenges. These efforts are underlined by the promise of raising the number of computer science lessons, doubling English lessons in secondary schools, and raising the pay for teachers. Furthermore, it proposes a complete redesigning of the Polish energy sector by changing from coal to renewables as the main energy source by 2035. It also outlines the digitalisation of administrative paperwork and a full redesigning of the state’s administration. Critics have called this sweeping program populist, as it promises change on a magnificent scale, and is deemed economically impossible since it does not fully address the issue of how it will finance its social programs.

Regardless, the early popularity of Spring signals that to some extent it does address what are perceived as core issues in Poland. It is important to mention that the program is not a long document with careful analysis, but a 27 page proposal. This might prove dangerous in the future, as it presents risks that some of the proposals will prove to be impossible to fol-low through. As they say - devil is in the detail. Nevertheless, time will prove whether Spring reaches up to its promises. Another challenge may arise from the freshness of its leadership. Although it is seen as a positive among voters, these people are yet to prove how and if they can tackle problems arising from their inexperience. The strongly polarised political field in Poland, caused mainly by the authoritarian tendencies of the current right-wing government, is a hard playground to step into.

It seems Spring hopes that its message of reconciliation and dialogue could prove to be a cure for the current state of affairs. However, despite this rhetoric, their program proposes the creation of a Committee of Justice and Reconciliation in  the Sejm (the Polish Parliament) which would examine the abuses of power between 2015-2019. So, even if it attempts to sway the voters from the currently governing party PiS through sweeping social reforms, it clearly sides with one particular camp in the battles that have taken place in Poland in recent years. Nevertheless, the possible prospect of a gay atheist becoming the Prime Minister, or even the President, in a Catholic Poland where homophobia is still strong, is a fundamentally refreshing thought.

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